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Bangladesh faces the permanence of slums

"Every year, around 300,000-400,000 new migrants flock into Dhaka, the bulk of which come from rural, underprivileged backgrounds and are seeking employment opportunities in the city's fast-growing manufacturing and service sectors. However, the reality they face upon arrival is grim--unable to afford decent housing, they are forced to move into large, illegal settlements. Barely able to make ends meet, these citizens become disenfranchised victims of endless exploitation at the hands of a corrupt police force, unresponsive politicians, and powerful, money-hungry criminal gang lords called Mastaans.

"In the absence of government action, other actors move in to fill the void, and in many cases, to reap profit. Since the government refuses to acknowledge or serve the illegal settlements, Mastaans run the collection and extortion of illegal operation fees from businesses, transport stations, construction sights, and even small informal traders. They prey upon the poor by charging extremely high rent for housing and basic services, which they supply. They even control the begging industry, claiming ownership over the best begging spots and collecting the earnings.

"In this system, security and justice come at a high price, and are far out of reach of the poor."


"In the long run, Bangladesh and its South Asian neighbors, many of whom face the same problems in their urban slums, will be unable to face rapid urbanization and population growth unless they snap out of their current state of passive denial. In order to destabilize the criminal Political-Police-Mastaan Nexus, governments must crack down on internal corruption, decriminalize existing informal settlements, and initiate land ownership reform that will give all citizens the fair access to basic government services and security that they deserve."

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